Published: 15th October 2019
Why Aditi Maddali's film will make you fall in love with traditional Uyyala Paatalu again
Aditi Maddali's documentary Songs of Our Soil brings to the fore Telangana's Uyyala Paatalu songs which women sing on the fields and have found its way to protests
During the famous Telangana People's Struggles of 1948, women contributed in an immeasurable way. An important aspect is the songs they sang while working on fields — Uyyala Paatalu — became a part of the struggle as did the women from various backgrounds. These songs, part of their old traditions for generations, are about various subjects like patriarchy, caste, childhood, health and sanitation and helped in mobilising women's support for the movement. But after the struggle, they went back to their everyday life and so did the songs.
She pursued her Master's in Media and Cultural Studies from TISS and is currently based out of Mumbai
Songs of Our Soil is a must-watch documentary if you want to understand these songs further. Directed by Aditi Maddali, who was born and brought up in Hyderabad, and funded by the India Foundation for the Arts (which she received in 2017) the research for the documentary started in 2016 itself. But the task was not only extensive, but exhaustive as well because imagine documenting oral tradition whose origin or source is difficult to trace.
Sweet smiles: Aditi with one of the women she shot with | (Pic: Aditi Maddali)
Not only this, hailstorms, women refusing to talk, other women refusing to talk on their field (Uyyala Paatalu songs are only sung when women work in the fields) — and a host of other challenges met Aditi, but she successfully documented and completed the film this year. "These songs are not performative and are spread across history. You can't club these songs under the tag of 'folk songs' and in the context of how agriculture itself is shifting, what happens to the women? What happens to the songs? These are the arguments that I wanted to present through my documentary and start conversations," says the 27-year-old who shot in Bhongir, Laxmanpur and other places in Telangana. Of course, to gain their trust, she had to make many trips. And eventually, many women came together to make this film happen.
Aditi is extremely grateful to Indian Foundation for the Arts to make this documentary happen, which she had initially pitched as a podcast
Primary narratives came from two women, one of them being the feisty Laxmi, a character whose land might get submerged due to the irrigation projects of the government. "The songs she sings convey this and are sung in the dialogue form, as a sort of conversation directly with the Chief Minister," says Mumbai-based Aditi who adds, "The media might portray them as victims or as being anti-establishment, but it is important to listen to these songs because women sing with clarity about what they want."
Making still: Aditi during the making of the documentary | (Pic: Aditi Maddali)
These songs are the way women communicate what they want and each song differs from field to field. There is no format, length or structure to it, it all depends on the amount of work they have on the field. Hence, Aditi, who is currently pursuing MPhil in Women Studies, was careful enough to not use the whole song, but instead interspersed them throughout the documentary with the conversations she had. Aditi, first and foremost, wanted to start conversations through this work. "The purpose of these songs now, should the onus be on these women to remember them and many other questions are up for discussion," she says.